Pull out your spinnerbait box and scan the array. What colors dominate? If you’re like most anglers, you keep buying white and chartreuse models and some with a combination of the two colors, and perhaps a mix of chrome and gold blades in various blade styles.
Choosing the proper color should not be a matter of whim or past success. There’s a reason manufacturers continue to offer a far broader color array than most anglers carry.
Spinnerbaits don’t duplicate natural forage, but instead create a moving aura that hits the hot buttons of bass and other gamefish. Those hot buttons are the innate trigger mechanisms that tell a fish that something’s edible and vulnerable.
To create the most appropriate aura, many variables enter the decision process when choosing colors, sizes, and blade configurations. Water color, sky conditions (cloudy or clear), effective fishing depth, typical prey, and cover type should be considered. Spinnerbait manufacturers offer many lure patterns proven deadly on bass. But they rue the fact that too few anglers take this opportunity, instead stocking their boxes only with variations of white and chartreuse.
The Van Dam Philosophy
Over the past decade, bass champion Kevin Van Dam has demonstrated his prowess with spinnerbaits, outfishing the best bass anglers in the world time after time. Observers often note that Van Dam fishes slowly, but in rapid fashion. He precisely executes each cast and retrieve, feeling the bait move at all times. Yet he covers water at an incredible clip, somehow seining out any bass willing to bite. Not surprising that his lure of choice often is a spinnerbait.
“I grew up fishing a spinnerbait in clear lakes in Michigan,” Van Dam says, “and on the tournament trail, I’ve found how well spinnerbaits work in the dingiest water we visit. Spinnerbaits can work anywhere and any time of day or season, provided you select your lure carefully.”
Van Dam focuses primarily on three selection criteria. The first factor is water clarity; second, light and sky conditions and surface chop; and third, dominant forage in the body of water. He recommends: “Take all three into consideration when taking out a spinnerbait first thing in the morning. Often you can plan the first and third factors ahead of time, but you have to get on the water to determine sky conditions and light factors.
“I like to watch spinnerbaits from underwater; it aids in understanding the way they attract fish,” he says. “In clear, calm water, the surface looks silvery, like a mirror. Light-color spinnerbaits blend with the surface when seen from below, the angle that bass generally see the lure. I try to fish spinnerbaits above the fish about 95 percent of the time.
“A key to spinnerbait fishing is disguising the lure, masking its true identity and instead giving it the aura of a live preyfish. The blades provide flash for attraction, but bass attack the head and skirt. That’s why spinnerbaits hook fish well—they bite from behind the hook, as on a jig.
“For spinnerbait fishing, though, optimum conditions are low light with some chop. These conditions break up the light, reduce light penetration, and seem to encourage bass to feed more actively. You can’t beat a spinnerbait in those conditions. In clear water, bass can be caught on almost any color, but in my experience, you’ll catch more and bigger fish with natural colors in the skirt and head, and metallic or painted blades.
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